Fish fumet and seafood stock recipe

Published January 29, 2011 1:30AM (EST)

(Adapted from the Culinary Institute of America)

Makes ½ gallon. You're probably not going to need that much, so feel free to halve this recipe


  • 5½ pounds of bones and heads from lean fish
  • 2 ounces onion, cut in ½" dice
  • 2 ounces leeks, cut in ½" dice
  • 2 ounces parsnips, cut in ½" dice
  • 2 ounces celery, cut in ½" dice (this combination of vegetables is called "white mirepoix." Feel free to substitute more onion for the leeks and carrots for the parsnips for standard mirepoix)
  • 5 ounces mushrooms
  • ½ gallon water
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2-3 sprigs parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or so, enough to coat the pot

Equipment: a pot big enough to fit everything, and that is ideally taller than it is wide (so the liquid doesn't evaporate too quickly). A strainer and a fine-mesh strainer. Maybe some cheesecloth, if you have some.


  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over a moderate flame. While it heats, add the mirepoix and then the bones on top, and cover with a lid. Cook for about five minutes, until the bones turn opaque and are "sweating" juices. I don't know why this makes it taste better. I just know it does. Much mo' betta.
  2. When the bones look good and cooked, but before the vegetables begin to brown, add the wine, stir the whole lot, and bring to a simmer to cook off the alcohol. Then add the water and the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer again, and cook, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes. Skim off any grody foam and fat that floats to the top.
  3. After the simmering time, give the fumet a taste. It should be rich, with nice brightness from the wine, but not overpowering. Bland, in a comforting way, but with a distinguishable, sweet flavor of fish. Strain, and then, if you're fussy, strain again through a fine-mesh or triple-cheesecloth lined strainer. Let cool and refrigerate, or pour into ice cube trays, freeze and keep on hand in the freezer.

But what if I don't have that many bones? Do you know how goofy I feel asking for five pounds of fish bones?

No problem. Your fumet won't be as rich or flavorful, but even half as many bones will still give you enough flavor to use as a nice background for sauces to be served with seafood, stews, soups and the like.

And ... the promised shellfish stock!

I love this stuff. Reduce or skip the wine in the recipe, use standard mirepoix as described in the ingredients list, and replace the fish bones with the same amount of shrimp, crab, lobster or whatever kind of shells you like. (Honestly, it's tough to come by this many shells, so I actually usually adjust the recipe by using as many shells as I have and using just enough water to cover and calling it a day.)

Get the oil ripping hot in the pot, almost smoking, and add the shells. Let them sit for a minute, browning, and then stir. Keep stirring until the shells are all pink, and if you want stronger flavor, keep stirring and cooking until they get a nice golden brown. This is going to smell terrific. (Alternatively, you can roast the shells in a hot oven.) Add mirepoix, cooking until that's taken on a little color, and then a little tomato paste (2 tablespoons if you're making the full recipe), and cook until that's aromatic and starting to change color. Add water and herbs, etc. Bring to a simmer, and simmer for 35-40 minutes (although superstar seafood chef Eric Ripert says you get all the good flavor out of the shells in 20). Strain and store as above.

By Francis Lam

Francis Lam is Features Editor at Gilt Taste, provides color commentary for the Cooking Channel show Food(ography), and tweets at @francis_lam.

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